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Thought Is To Be Cherished

Morrie sat at the dining room table, long after the meal had been finished. The dinner plates were pushed to the center of the table, and before him sat the dregs of his third after-dinner cup of coffee. The coffee barely crossed his mind, as the cup was merely an object to occupy his nervous hands and the coffee itself a temporary pause to collect his thoughts.

He sat, leaning forward in his shirt sleeves, his necktie still on but with the knot substantially loosened and the top shirt button undone. Although his rounded shoulders slumped and his tired arms hung loosely at his sides, his spirits remained high. His diminished physical bearing, in contrast to the energy of his speech, was the accumulated result of decades of sales calls, hauling a sample case into office after office, sitting in rickety wooden chairs making his pitch. Now, as he spoke, he leaned back slightly, and unconsciously unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up his sleeves to his elbows.

"But what of Kafka?" he said excitedly. "Poor doomed Samsa...condemned to a job he loathes, with no social life, all for the good of his unappreciative family. Extraordinary. He intentionally makes himself useless to them, no longer the provider, forcing them out of their sedentary dependency. Suddenly they have to tend to his needs, instead of him to theirs."

For Morris Kushner, underneath his salesman uniform, was an intellectual. A working intellectual, one with a nine-to-five job, or more accurately seven-to-seven. He delighted in discussing philosophy and literature, going so far as trying to ease weighty discourses into his calls. But such efforts were largely unsuccessful, as his counterparts were too preoccupied with sales figures and unit prices and office politics to pay him any mind.

It was here at the dinner table, his own or that of a friend, where his intellectual hunger was truly satisfied. As dinner reached its final stages, the food fulfilling its basic, physically-sustaining role, his mind and those of his companions moved to the forefront. Thoughts and conjectures were introduced, the air brimming with words as the coffee was poured, opinions and evidence exchanged effortlessly, back and forth. For a few hours in an evening, he could forget about the everyday and lose himself in thought and lofty conversation.

February 27, 2004 in Fiction | Permalink